One of the purposes of this letter is to encourage Concordia University’s administration to waive the $20-per-course fee for incomplete grades as a first step towards ameliorating the problems posed by the student strike.
Close to half of the semester has been consumed by the ongoing student strike. All members of the Concordia community, regardless of their roles or political convictions, have been affected. For professors, the strike obviously poses a specific set of practical difficulties. More fundamentally, it raises ethical conflicts regarding our role as educators.
In order to maintain our commitments to our pedagogical goals in the face of a heavily compromised semester, we have found it necessary to continuously renegotiate expectations around the completion of courses. With deadlines upon us, it is urgent that we find appropriate methodologies that balance the academic needs of our students with the practical consequences of the strike. In these exceptional circumstances, we are faced with a set of new tasks for which Concordia’s administration has provided no guidance, facilitation, or models.
We have had to develop contingency plans on an individual basis with students, including coordinating later submission dates. Further, we have found it necessary to adjust grading schemes, taking into account the disruption of access to academic content as established in course outlines. Beyond this, if semester deadlines remain unadjusted, we are faced with the task of evaluating an exceptionally large backlog of student work within an unreasonable time frame.
The administration’s insistence that the completion of the semester is simply equivalent to the production of final grades highlights a cultural shift regarding education. The notion of the university as a place to foster intellectual and creative development is currently being replaced by a businesslike model wherein success is evaluated in terms of quantifiable and profitable results. The current struggle at Concordia, and throughout Quebec, is a direct result of this ideological conflict.
While it is imperative that we resist this fundamental erosion of democratic access to education by taking a position against the Liberal government’s tuition hikes, we must equally work to mitigate the immediate damage caused to our academic community by the current crisis.
As a result of the disruption of the semester, many students have been unable to complete their course requirements within the given deadlines. As such, filing for incomplete grades is being considered as a form of damage control. In light of the degree to which the semester has been compromised, it is unfair for students to be expected to pay up to $100 simply in order to meaningfully complete their courses.
Accordingly, we ask that, as a minimum response, the administration waive the $20-per-course fee for incomplete grades for all students.
Although incomplete grades have the potential to provide a low-level alleviation of the stress currently placed on students and faculty, they do not in themselves constitute a resolution of the profound problems indicated by the way the strike has been handled at Concordia. We therefore call upon the administration to work in consultation with students, faculty and staff in developing meaningful solutions to the neoliberalization of education.